Rev Corneil Gato Munyamasoko, the executive secretary of the Association of Baptist Churches of Rwanda (AEBR), has been described as an example of the character and fortitude of Rwandans who have given their lives to help rebuild their country from its dark past.
The tribute came from government officials and heads of international organisations, on Tuesday, in recognition of his Baptist World Alliance Award for Human Rights.
Rev Munyamasoko received the award last month in Durban, South Africa, becoming the first African leader to make the list of winners in the history of the Award, which includes such illustrious recipients as former president of the US Jimmy Carter.
The award is given every five years since 1995 when President Carter got it.
Munyamasoko, 51, is said to have started activism when he was 19 years old, involving in fighting discrimination, disunity and social injustice.
“When I started to get involved with human rights, justice, peace building and reconciliation activities, I could not have achieved anything if I had not been inspired by the word of God. The award is a sign the world is convinced that security, human rights and reconciliation are reigning in Rwanda,” he said.
The award, which carries no financial benefit, is a celebration of humility, obedience and pride.
The CEO of Rwanda Governance Board, Prof Anastase Shyaka, said the Award was significant for Rwanda.
“Rwanda’s spirit of excellence and ensuring peace and justice is like a burning fire that is spreading so fast to the rest of the world. This award is an encouragement to us as a nation that the flames of excellence and peace among Rwandans are not in vain,” Shyaka said during a reception dinner in Kigali, yesterday.
“Peace building and reconciliation are among the key areas the Church strongly participated in in the aftermath of the Genocide and this award is proof of what the Church has done in the country,” he added.
In a speech read by Wendy Derksen, the acting executive-director of Canadian Baptist Ministries, Rev Doctor Terry Smith, said Munyamasoko “is an example of the character and fortitude of Rwandans who have given their lives to help rebuild their country from its wounds.”
“Canadian Baptist Ministries would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the leaders of Rwanda on the remarkable progress that they have achieved. We praise your efforts to foster unity and your pursuit of peace and reconciliation,” said Derksen.
Munyamasoko recounted the challenges he experienced during his journey of reconciliation and peace building when he was head teacher of Nyange School.
“I remember asking my students if any of them would feed on stones or if there was one who did not use a toilet?...These were funny scenarios, but they inspired a clear understanding of humanity amongst the then ethnically torn community during the aftermath of the Genocide,” he said.
Married to Anne Marie Mujawingabe, the two have seven children.
Munyamasoko studied human rights and justice studies in Hawai University (USA) before going to Canada in 2010 for conflict resolutions studies.
He taught in secondary schools in DR Congo before returning to Rwanda, where he became the head teacher of Nyange School for eight years.
The peace building specialist, who has worked with Canadian Baptist Ministries in DR Congo, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan, since 2010, is also the current deputy spokesperson of the Baptist Association in Rwanda.